A little over 90 years ago, on March 31, 1932, Ford brought power to the people—V8 power, which up until then could only be found in Cadillacs, Lancias, and cars like that. With the all-new 1932 Model 18, Henry Ford democratized the V8. Suddenly just about anyone could buy a powerful car that also looked good. And as soon as ’32 Fords got to be old cars, they and their flathead engines were scooped up by veterans returning from WWII and turned into hot rods, over and over again.
“Hot rods are still cars that are third or fourth or fifth owners that you can customize and make it your own,” said Terry Karges, director of the Petersen Automotive Museum. “But you start with something that’s real affordable, that almost nobody wants anymore, and you start to personalize it.”
“It’s the iconic hot rod,” said collector Bruce Meyer. “It’s a great platform for innovation, and hot rodding is all about personalization, innovation, and performance. So when something’s right, it just lasts. And you can see that it’s pretty darn popular.
To celebrate all that, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles didn’t just host another cruise-in—though they did that—but they invented their own holiday, National Hot Rod Day, June 11, and invited owners of ’32 Fords to come and celebrate.
While signups suggested there might be 250 cars present, a little over 100 actually showed up. No matter, it was still a great day filled with horsepower, old friends, and stories of ’32s of yore.
“The ’32 Ford was the first economically available V8 engine,” said hot rod author Pat Ganahl, who was wandering among the Deuces on the Petersen’s open-air parking deck. “And it was a totally new body style, thanks to Edsel Ford.” It was a body style that has easily stood the test of time, mainly due to its simplicity of design.
“From the Model A to the ‘32, you really got a little bit softer and smoother, there are a few more curves and compound curves and things to it,” said AMBR-winning hot rod builder Troy Ladd of Hollywood Hot Rods. “I think it really was a turning point in automotive design at the time… I think it’s just a really nice design—it just works.”